Expat Life and Culture Shock

I remember the first time I heard the term culture shock.  I was eight and had just moved to the Philippines.  It sounded like something terrible that could knock a person out, maybe for good.  Like electric shock, or toxic shock, or something equally awful.  The adults (all American missionaries in the Philippines) were talking about it.  About how someone who had recently moved there could hardly cope with life, the culture shock was so bad.  As a kid making the transition to a new country, I don't think I really experienced too much culture...more

British Food: So Much Potential, So Much Disappointment

I tend to not put much stock in stereotypes about countries.  I would rather show up without any assumptions, and see what is actually going on....more

On Crossing the English Channel and Making Dreams Come True

April has been a very blah month for me.  It has rained almost every single day, and I have felt like I'm under house arrest.  Except when I have to go to the market, and get completely drenched in the constant rain.  A trip to the coast was a very welcome reprieve last week, but I have really been itching to go somewhere.  Finances have been tight, with taxes and our car breaking ...more

Expat Life: Let's Talk About Alienation

Part of the deal when choosing an expat lifestyle is being a foreigner.  It's just a fact.  On the one hand, being a foreigner is really cool, since by definition, you are constantly discovering your new surroundings, and so your senses are heightened toward the new exciting world you have chosen.  On the other hand, you don't belong.  Plain and simple, you don't.  I grew up a foreigner....more

She Was Right.

 While we were living in Amberg, we spent a lot of time at a cafe down the street.  It was a really warm, busy place, and when Amelia was not in Kindergarten yet, I liked to take her there and let her play in a fountain with a bunch of bronze pig statues, while I had a coffee and wrote in my journal or just stared into space.  Gradually, we became familiar faces there, and met some of the other regulars.  Most did not speak much English, but that wasn't always an obstacle.  One such case was a really sweet couple my grandparen...more

Living in the US, Living in Germany

Here vs. There: What I'm Loving, What I'm Missing Knowing that being in the States is temporary, it is easy to enjoy the things that come with this territory. The fact that we chose as a family to leave the US means that there are also things we preferred about living in Germany. Let's start with the good things about being here: ...more

Thank you, Laurel, for your thoughtful comment. I loved living in Germany, and wish you all the ...more

The Importance of Being a Stranger

I like being useful.  I like having something to offer the people I meet, and I like to be a good friend.  When I moved to Germany, I wasn't any of these things.  I literally didn't even know how to count past three in Deutsch.  I didn't have resources to share, and I was rather vulnerable and needy.  I couldn't drive there, I didn't know what was going on, and my husband started work 13 hours after we arrived....more

10 Ways to Deal With Uncertain Future Anxiety

Over the past five years, I have gone through so many transitions, and many periods of time when I had no idea what was next.  This episode of uncertainty is a little more extreme than the others, and I thought it would be good to come up with a real plan for handling my Uncertain Future Anxiety (UFA.) 1.  Recall past experiences of UFA, not knowing how things would turn out, and review the ways in which everything really did turn out OK. ...more

I always love hearing from other expats, and their experiences generally prove that it turns out ...more

The Most Nostalgic Day of the Year.

You would think that, after leaving all of my relatives at the age of eight to move to the Philippines, I would be a little less attached to family traditions.  You would think that having each of the seven kids in my family go to boarding school for high school, I would be used to being apart.  You would think that moving away from what I knew as "home" in California four summers ago, I would be accustomed to some loneliness around the holidays.  You would think.  But somehow, I have not been properly inoculated against feeling blue about being without old friends and f...more